The October 19 decision of the South African government to continue a policy of total repression of internal dissent all too clearly marks the end of one era in American-South African relations and opens a new and more dangerous period. Among the most ominous attributes of the repressive measures were the arrest of Percy Qoboza, editor of the World, the largest "black" newspaper in South Africa; the banning of Donald Woods, editor of the "white" Daily Dispatch; and the closure of the World itself. The effect of the government's action was to silence some of the major voices of moderation in the Republic. The arrest and then death of Steve Biko under highly suspicious circumstances had already removed another spokesman for a policy of evolutionary change in South African society.

The harsh reaction of South Africa to internal black unrest and ferment should not, however, have engendered the shock and surprise that evidently marked the reaction of the international community. For more than three-quarters of a century, black South Africans have persistently attempted to establish black organizations to importune or confront the government. The consistent reaction of the government has been eventual, often brutal, suppression. Before the turn of the century the African Methodist Episcopal Church, a militant, ably led black American denomination, gave shelter to several black proto-protest groups consisting mainly of members of the tiny emerging black middle class in South Africa. After the creation of the Union of South Africa under British auspices, these nascent groups coalesced into the Native National Congress (later the African National Congress) in 1912. Without suggesting that the analogy is complete, the Congress operated in much the same fashion as the NAACP did in the United States for the same 35- or 40-year period - it begged the white establishment for alleviation of the black condition without suggesting that repercussions would follow a spurning of its pleas. Of course, there were several important differences between the Congress and the NACCP - the NAACP had access to judicial relief while the Congress did not, and the NAACP represented a minority whose demands could be accommodated within the American system. When the black Congresses, African National and Pan-Africanist, joined in protests and confrontational demonstrations culminating in the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, the governmental response was the prompt suppression of both movements and the bannings, harassment and imprisonment of activists.

By the 1970s, as repression grew ever more harsh and international condemnation ever more intense, a new black movement emerged - first among the black university students and then among urban blacks - taking as its leitmotif the raising of black consciousness. The values of black pride and self-reliance were stressed, adding a new dimension to previous politicization of blacks. The death in detention of Steve Biko, the movement's acknowledged leader, and the resulting black and white public furor evoked the expected and predictable reaction - suppression of the organizational forms of the movement, the Black Peoples' Convention and more than a dozen major associated groups, black and white alike.

A combination of factors, including the racial composition of our society, our commitment to human rights, and the evident Soviet interest in the revolutionary potential of southern Africa, preclude U.S. indifference to these internal events in South Africa. What our response should be, however, depends upon an analysis of trends within South African society and their effect on U.S. interests. An approach to our dilemmas regarding South Africa that has had particular appeal to some Americans in the past decade is a policy of "communication" with South Africa's whites to persuade them to change their ways. Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon officially opted for this policy in choosing Option 2 of National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) 39 in 1970. A notable contemporary argument for this position has been enunciated in an article by former Under Secretary of State George Ball in the October Atlantic Monthly.1 It is our contention, however, that even an updated version of the communication policy will not foster the major U.S. objective regarding South Africa - a transition to a just power-sharing with a minimum of violence. A number of implications for U.S. policy flow from this conclusion.


Because Mr. Ball's essay has attracted enough attention both in this country and in South Africa to have become a counter in the debate about U. S. policy toward South Africa, his expression of certain key arguments will be used here in discussing this approach.

Mr. Ball's analysis is directed toward demonstrating that Vice President Mondale's equation of "full political participation" for Africans with "one man, one vote" is likely to increase the resistance of South African whites to any sort of a settlement and that the U.S. government ought, on the contrary, to direct its influence toward the achievement of some goal that whites do not find unacceptable. Since the Vice President's statement, U.S. officials have repeatedly declared that the United States has no timetable or formula in mind for achieving change in South Africa. Mr. Mondale himself stressed the same point in an October 17 interview with the South African newspaper, the Rand Daily Mail, saying that the United States has never put forward a plan for change in South Africa because we do not have one.2

Both South Africa's whites and Mr. Ball warn, however, that U.S. pressures will push them into a defensive fortress or laager.3 "If we use our leverage toward an unachievable end," Mr. Ball writes, we will drive "the Afrikaners into fierce resistance to any change whatever."4

In fact, both English and Afrikaner whites have - in the absence of significant pressure - long demonstrated just such fierce resistance. The history of South Africa has been characterized throughout this century by movement in one direction - into the laager, into a defensive structure founded on the progressive consolidation of white power through the legal separation and subjugation of blacks. From 1912 to 1948 the English-speaking community presided over the passage of legislation enforcing racial separation. Skilled work by blacks in extractive industries was prohibited by the 19 - Colour Bar Act, and the Natives Land Act of 1913 set the pattern for restricting freehold ownership of land to whites. After the electoral victory of the Nationalist Party in 1948, the Afrikaner government significantly quickened the pace of repression, arming itself with varied "legal" instruments. Particularly notable was the Group Areas Act - enacted with dispatch in 1950 - which established the separate areas in which each racial group could live and earn wages. Following this came a bewildering army of mixed-marriage and immorality acts, jobs reservation laws, and separation-of-residence requirements.

It is significant that the rigid structure of separation and repression was solidified during years in which South Africa was comparatively free of external pressures. Following the Sharpeville massacre in 1960 and until the end of the Portuguese empire in 1974-75, South Africa enjoyed unprecedented growth, as Western capital flowed in; seeming internal stability with virtually no visible black resistance; and relative protection from international harassment (with the United States, Britain, and France applying their U.N. vetoes reliably in South Africa's behalf).

Despite their relatively favorable circumstances, and the gentleness of Western admonitions about the South African system of racial separation, the Nationalists used this period progressively to dismantle the rule of law and enforce a new kind of separation through such laws as the General Laws Amendment Acts, which granted the Minister of Justice wide powers to arrest and detain without court approval; the Suppression of Communism Act, further restricting members of banned or suspect organizations; and the Terrorism Act, which established a very broad definition of terrorism and allowed indefinite detention without trial.

A main bulwark of apartheid, the institution of separate tribal lands for each ethnic group, was elaborated during these years. According to South Africa's Bantustan or homelands policy, the deprivation of black political rights and economic freedom is compensated by citizenship in black tribal areas or "homelands," over which blacks will ultimately exercise full political control. Today, even after efforts at "consolidation" of the many scattered parcels of land, only 12 to 13 percent of South Africa's territory nominally belongs to its 18.6 million blacks, while 87 percent is reserved to its 4.3 million whites.5 Thus the argument that pressures will only drive white South Africans "into the laager" is demonstrably flawed. During a period of prosperity and relative peace, they were moving deeper into their defensive structure, and fortifying it energetically.

Middle-aged blacks in South Africa remark on the difference between their experience of whites and those of their children - "the only white they know now is the policeman." Yet Mr. Ball judges that trends within the Afrikaner leadership indicate that positive changes will be forthcoming: "members of the South African government are actively discussing for the first time the abrogation of some of the more repellent measures." It is difficult to understand the basis for this prediction. Despite promises of "major changes" by the South African government,6 what is happening in that country is uninterrupted movement toward the further consolidation of apartheid.

In Durban and Cape Town today, for example, residential areas are being razed and families displaced to complete the separation of the races. African lawyers are now being ordered to move their offices out of Durban (where their clients are during office hours) and into the Zulu homeland some 15 miles out of town.

As Mr. Ball sees it, South African political reform may be characterized by "two steps forward . . . and one step backward." The reverse, however, is more likely. In a recurring pattern of taking away much and giving back a little, the South African government after its November 30 election will probably put forward some sort of reform - perhaps further technical changes in the Pass Laws or the restrictions on the owning of freehold property by blacks in urban areas. At the same time, however, the government threatens to add to its arsenal of restrictive legislation laws that would effectively curb nongovernmental organizations (and therefore much of the private voluntary activity which has provided an outlet for black and white efforts to ameliorate, reform, or develop alternatives to the existing system) by requiring that: only organizations registered with the government may offer social welfare services; no one may practice social work but a registered social worker; and no one may collect money for charity without government permission. Although Mr. Ball notes approvingly the government's proposed constitutional reorganization, which, he says, "would give Asians and so-called Coloureds - but not the black majority - some degree of political participation," the proposed parliaments for Coloureds and Indians are likely to mask further entrenchment of white authoritarian rule. The details of the changes will not be fully revealed until after the election, but their outlines promise the creation of three parliaments - for whites, Coloureds and Indians (but not blacks) - of which varying percentages will be appointed by the government. The appointment of members to the white Parliament represents a further move away from democratic government, and a further emasculation of an already weak opposition. In the Cabinet Council to be elected by an electoral college of the three groups, whites would exercise numerical control (even, according to Prime Minister Vorster, if the Coloureds and Indians eventually exceeded the whites in population).7 In addition, the government would no longer be headed by a Prime Minister, elected by Parliament, but by an Executive President elected by the electoral college effectively controlled by the Nationalist Party. Finally, the fact that both the Coloured and Indian councils have rejected the plan does not seem to have daunted the government's constitutional planners.

In sum, available evidence, from history and contemporary events, would indicate that significant movement toward power-sharing in South Africa is unlikely in the absence of felt external pressure.


International efforts to affect South Africa's internal situation - and international concern with the distribution of power within that country - do not, of course, originate with the Carter Administration. Beginning almost literally with the birth of the United Nations, the racial policies and practices of South Africa have engaged the attention of the international community. The notion that South Africa's internal situation was of international concern was voiced as early as 1946 when the Indian delegation to the General Assembly charged that Indian settlers in South Africa had suffered progressively worse discrimination since 1885. In September 1952, 13 countries requested the inclusion of an item on the agenda of the General Assembly entitled: ". . . the question of race conflict in South Africa resulting from the policies of apartheid of the Government of the Union of South Africa." The group of 13 alleged that policies and practices of the government were "creating a dangerous and explosive situation, which constitutes both a threat to international peace and a flagrant violation of the basic principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms which are enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations."

In 1954, the U.N. Commission on the Racial Situation in South Africa concluded: "Although the Commission appreciates the importance of securing equal economic opportunities for all, regardless of differences of race, colour or belief, it feels bound to state its conviction that steps to achieve political equality among ethnic groups are of prime importance and cannot be continually deferred without serious danger . . . ." (Commission's emphasis). The reaction of South Africa to the request was to insist that the United Nations was incompetent to consider the matter. In the U.N. General Assembly debate South Africa's representative, relying on statements made by John Foster Dulles in the course of drafting Article 2, asserted that under international law the relationship between a state and its nationals, "including the treatment of these nationals," is a matter of domestic jurisdiction, "which allows no interference either by another state or by any organization."

During the 1950s South Africa was supported by the United States and the United Kingdom in this position. The issue of whether South Africa's treatment of its nonwhite population is a matter of "international concern" or is solely within "domestic jurisdiction" has been a divisive issue for the world community throughout the intervening period.


With the U.N. Security Council Resolution of November 4, 1977, terming the export of arms to South Africa a threat to the peace and invoking a mandatory arms embargo, the domestic jurisdiction argument has been significantly eroded. But the argument has now reappeared in discussions of the situation in South Africa in the more subtle formulation put forward by Mr. Ball in his Atlantic article. In effect, the thesis of nonintervention in domestic affairs has shifted from legal argument to political strategy.

In its implications for U.S. policy, the crux of this argument is that the international community in general and the United States in particular must limit themselves to what would not be unacceptable to South Africa's whites (equated with the diplomatically "doable"). The creation of a South African regime of separate but equal - perhaps starting with the upgrading of black educational opportunity and a gradual dismantling of petty apartheid - is seen by Mr. Ball as possibly do-able.

A major semantic difficulty with this argument is that Mr. Ball's definition of "petty apartheid" seems to differ widely from that of South Africans. Whereas they use the term for signifying racial separation on the level of park benches, as well perhaps as in railroads and in restaurants, for Mr. Ball "petty apartheid" means "pay discrimination and the regulations that reserve skilled jobs to white workers and deny blacks the right to positions involving authority over whites. It means bringing to an end the harsh decree that denies South African citizenship to blacks who live in white urban communities." White South Africans do talk frequently of ending "petty apartheid," but most of Mr. Ball's definition would constitute for them the central core of apartheid and is therefore not negotiable. If urban blacks were accorded full citizenship, they would outnumber South African whites by two to one and the Afrikaners by more than three to one. Thus, common citizenship with urban blacks would mean the end of all apartheid and not a mere refurbishing of its "petty" face.

The underlying problem with Mr. Ball's proposal, however, lies precisely in the fact that three-quarters of a century of history has demonstrated that equality is unacceptable to white South Africans. Even now, the Bantustan policy, the "acceptable" embodiment of "separate but equal" in South African terms, demonstrates the reality of what "equal" means to the ruling South African establishment.


Central to the crisis in South Africa is the sharing of political power, whether the sharing formula is "one man, one vote" or some other. The formula for sharing political power must represent the expression of all South Africans as to their future, not simply that which white South Africa is prepared to yield voluntarily. It is now too late in the day to suggest that the South African solution can be anything other than the beginning of a process in which all South Africans have a voice - the aim of which is to determine the distribution of political power. For, while whites have evidently not altered their commitment to racial separation and subordination, black politicization has been greatly spurred by the fall of Portuguese colonialism in Angola and Mozambique as well as the disruptive power of the liberation fighters in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) and the prospect of black governments in both Zimbabwe and Namibia.

In general, black moral awe of whites is largely diminished. Thus, South Africa's blacks become increasingly impatient for significant change. The impotence of the government in the face of a student boycott of the schools in Soweto and other urban townships, which has virtually ended African secondary school education in Soweto and severely curtailed it in other places, has demonstrated the efficacy of a new use of black power. The related resignations of close to 400 teachers and high school principals in Soweto may constitute an equally significant turning point toward the radicalization of the black middle class. (The action of the government in seizing about 200 schoolchildren among the more than 600 blacks arrested on November 10 in a black township outside Pretoria may have represented a first attempt to force these students back to school.)

But as we have seen, there is no sign that white South Africa is prepared to consider an effective sharing of political (and hence economic) power. Pretoria has not even been prepared to admit blacks to the process of devising the acceptable. Thus a violent and protracted collision seems inevitable unless a combination of internal pressures and resources in the international community can be used to enlarge the ambit of what is "acceptable" to the minority ruling establishment.

The events of October 1977 in South Africa painfully demonstrate that Western rhetorical condemnation and abjuration have been most ineffective in inducing movement toward the goal of shared political power. But it is asserted that international business and the business community in South Africa contain as yet untapped reservoirs of reforming potential and that the exercise of this community's economic power can bring about a political evolution satisfactory to blacks and whites alike. The proponents of this view make an appealing analogy to the civil rights movement of the 1960s in the United States.

The parallel is particularly appealing because it permits Americans to advise South Africa on the basis of our experience. Framed in the metaphor of Birmingham, demands upon South Africa are shorn of the appearance of moralizing. And the metaphoric analogue carries the comforting message that the consequences of racist ideology can be ameliorated without the elimination of the ideology itself. But South Africa is not the American South a decade and a half ago. Nor is South African business the U.S. Steel of Birmingham in the early 1960s.

Until the onset of the current South African recession two to three years ago, the primary characteristic of South African business was its enormous profitability. For the past 25 years, U.S. returns on investments in South Africa ranged between 15 and 20 percent (although in 1975 they fell to 8.6 percent because of the recession). The wellspring of that profitability is not difficult to identify: its source is cheap black labor.

The exploitation of the vast black South African labor pool is illustrated by looking at the wages of blacks relative to those of whites. Figures for the mining and manufacturing industries in 1975, for example, show a broad gap: in manufacturing the average monthly wage for whites ($714) was almost five times that of blacks ($148.40); in mining the average monthly wage for whites ($868) was eight times that for blacks ($103.60). To expect business in South Africa to exert its influence to redistribute political power in a fashion which threatens its very raison d'être is to ascribe to that community an unwonted altruism. The real costs to business of a white majority sharing political power with a black minority do not threaten the structure of profitability remotely to the degree that it would be threatened by a black nonbusiness majority exercising political power over a white business minority. As George Ball points out, the demographic structure of the South in the 1960s, where blacks did not constitute more than 37 percent of any state's population, did not present the risks to profitability and stability that the demographic structure in South Africa presents to South African business. Profit-making enterprises have shown little propensity to commit economic suicide by misconceiving the political structures that best serve their interests. Certainly there is motivation on the part of the economic sector to initiate changes that may abate possible disruption of the status quo. It is too much, however, to expect business to push for significant change of conditions that make profitable operations possible.

Left to itself, South African society appears to possess neither the will nor the resources to effect fundamental alterations in its political structure through a nonviolent process. Indeed, violence is already present in South Africa. The maintenance of the status quo ultimately rests on violence - the monopoly of violence by the state against blacks has already been exercised from Sharpeville to Soweto. The real issue is whether substantial change can be induced without violence by blacks against whites. But here too, low-level black violence is already present in South Africa. The unthinkable must be thought - what should be the position of the United States and the international community in response to a possible race war in South Africa?


In discussing U.S. policy options toward South Africa, we should first look at real or perceived U.S. interests and the related question of domestic interest groups' shaping or constraining policy.

U.S. international and regional political goals in southern Africa can only be sketched briefly here. African policy and almost certainly southern African policy became a priority concern to American policymakers only after the collapse of the Portuguese colonial empire. The factual premise of the Nixon-Kissinger policy of "tilting" toward the white regimes - namely the durability of Portuguese colonialism - was in error. With the belatedly perceived threat of a communist presence in southern Africa after Angola, the memorandum's conclusion, that U.S. interests were best furthered by a continuance of the status quo, also appeared faulty. For the Soviet Union had since the early 1960s been betting on the end of white minority rule by aiding the liberation movements of southern Africa. (George Ball seems puzzlingly to misconstrue this situation when he advances the complicated argument that if the United States, "having encouraged insurrection by talk of 'one man, one vote,' then refused assistance to blacks," not only would the communists jeer at us, but "they would probably provide the aid we are withholding.")

An essential element in U.S. policy since Angola has been active involvement in securing peaceful transitions in both Zimbabwe and Namibia. In this effort, the cooperation of South Africa has been sought. In the fall of 1976, the State Department vigorously denied that either an express or tacit understanding had been reached with South Africa that, in exchange for Pretoria's efforts to reach an agreement with Ian Smith, the United States would give South Africa breathing space in regard to its own racial policies. In the fall of 1977, faced with three African-sponsored resolutions in the U.N. Security Council calling for imposition of punitive sanctions against South Africa, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, admitted that a major constraint on U.S. policy lay precisely in the fact that the United States looked to South Africa to assist in procuring a Rhodesian settlement. The assertion that South Africa must undertake major changes in its racial policy for reasons of South Africa's own best national interests was lost in yet another reformulation of U.S. interests. However, South Africa is indeed the central problem of southern Africa and no resolution in southern Africa is possible without a substantial change in South Africa's racial policy. In the long run, U.S. interests in the area are best protected by a peaceful settlement in South Africa itself. Furthermore, it should be obvious that the South African government will advance such settlements only when it believes they are in its own interest. If South Africa doubts the long-term U.S. resolve, it may prefer to keep the pots boiling - to keep guerrilla warfare away from the South African heartland; to preoccupy international attention with these issues; to concentrate Soviet interest on the buffer areas; and to buy time until new elections are held in the United States and United Kingdom, in the hope that friendlier administrations will be installed.

Economic interests may also exercise a determining - and perhaps constraining - influence on U.S. policy. U.S. investments in South Africa amount to little more than one percent of our total overseas investment. Because U.S. investors include the top 50 U.S. corporations, however, they may wield a disproportionate amount of influence with the U.S. Congress. The other main Western economic interest - in South Africa's gold, chrome, diamonds and iron ore - is considerable. But, arguably, long-term access to these can best be safeguarded by dissociation from the present regime.

More substantial constraints on the scope of U.S. policy toward South Africa can be identified in the domestic imperatives of U.S. society. U.S. policy toward South Africa is now and always has been shaped by domestic concerns and interests. Mr. Ball apparently fears that powerful domestic constituencies may "engage us too deeply in that area's agonies." If he has in mind pressures from American blacks, however, history does not hold grounds for his fear. Although there are now signs of change, until this time the least relevant and least potent domestic dynamic has been the opinion of the black constituency. To assert that an activist U.S. policy of pressuring South Africa to reform its internal racial policies is (or would be) solely a product of domestic black political forces is to give far too much credit to the power of the black community in the United States and to underestimate American idealism. The domestic constraints on American policy toward South Africa are much more fundamentally emanations of the nature of American society.

Of course the fact that more than 10 percent of the American population has roots in Africa has indeed affected American policy toward South Africa. Until now, however, the effect has been on the whole negative. Too often, indeed, South African-American relations have been viewed as analogous to American black-white relations. On the one hand, the American experience has taught the political impotence of blacks on issues in which the decisive factor is race; on the other hand, the same experience has instructed that there is always a nonviolent accommodation to essentially racial conflicts. The result has been a kind of American myth - that there is always a solution to racial problems which will not unduly upset present arrangements and expectations. Thus, a constraining force in African policy has always been our own national experience.

A related constraining force on policy options is that imposed by racism. It is sometimes useful to remind ourselves that there are Americans who sympathetically identify with the architects of apartheid in South Africa. Many more would vigorously deny such an identification but nonetheless assert that the outside world has no right to judge the exigencies of a system developed by the whites for their own survival.


Given U.S. interests, the domestic constraints upon policy options, and the nature of contemporary South African society, what is possible as a U.S. policy in South Africa? The United States both for itself and as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council does have an interest in avoiding an escalating race war. It is obvious, however, that this country cannot dictate or impose a solution to the South African problem, and an imposed solution has never been a serious element of U.S. - South African policy. Even if there were an American will to do so, such a course of action would not be politically in the interest of the United States. But to recognize the limits of American power and policy is not the equivalent of supporting only resolutions that would now be acceptable to the white South African community.

Mr. Ball's proposal, that the United States indicate to the South African government "what, short of majority rule, we might be prepared to support," would be asking for trouble in both South and black Africa. In addition to embroiling us rather deeply in the processes of change in that country, it would also deprive us of flexibility as mediators by identifying us with the position of a particular faction or factions.

Instead, we should reiterate our goal as formulated by Vice President Mondale and other Administration spokesmen: to foster a process in which all South Africans play a part in determining the future of their country. To alleviate unnecessary fears, we should make it clear, from the outset, that we sympathize with the expressed need for firm and enforceable constitutional guarantees protecting the human rights of all citizens in South Africa.

Mr. Ball advises that we not try to isolate further the Afrikaners but rather "bring them into harmony with the 20th Century and the prevailing social values and concepts that are espoused by other noncommunist democratic nations." We doubt that the Administration would quarrel with that reformulation of our policy goal. But the question is, how do you accomplish this? Clearly a system which was in harmony with the "values and concepts" of the West would require, at a minimum, the evolution of a process of joint decision-making in South Africa which would give participation, for the first time, to the 83 percent of the population who have thus far been excluded.

The basic demand of a wide range of black South African leaders has been to convene a national conference where freely chosen representatives of all groups would have an opportunity both to help shape their future society and to decide on transitional steps necessary to reach that final goal. Similar demands have been made by a wide variety of white opposition members of the South African Parliament. While Mr. Ball is silent on this issue, we assume he would favor such a convention as the last, best chance for achieving a negotiated, relatively moderate political system of power-sharing in South Africa. The alternative is, indeed, ghastly: hardening positions on both sides, growing racial hatred, escalating violence and superpower intervention.

Our difference with Mr. Ball, then, lies not in defining the proper American goal but rather in spelling out the tactics to be employed. Mr. Ball would, apparently, have us increase our contacts with the South African government so that we can expose Afrikaner thinking to "the liberalizing currents of the 18th and 19th Centuries." He would have the United States "quietly urge" the Afrikaner government to change its ways. But he does not say what action the United States should take if increased contact and "quiet urging" do not succeed in bringing the Afrikaners into the twentieth century.

Many Africans and Americans who have studied South Africa over the past 30 years feel there is no evidence to support the view that increased contact and "exposure" to "liberalizing ideas" have had any positive impact on the Afrikaner government. The very opposite seems true. Far from moving toward internal, multiracial dialogue about South Africa's future - a path involving little risk to Vorster, since he could break off talks, with little cost, at any time he found them unproductive - the South African government has now embarked upon its most ambitious program to annihilate all organized opposition. How much longer does Mr. Ball want the United States to follow our past policy of "quiet urging" when it is obvious that we have pursued this for 30 years with only negative results?

Because U.S. leverage in South Africa is mainly with the white community, our best hope of minimizing violence is to convince whites of the extremity of their position. No people throughout history has relinquished power without being required to do so. Only a combination of serious international and domestic pressures will bring home to white South Africans the necessity of moving now rather than waiting until it is too late for any form of peaceful settlement.

It is clear that the Carter Administration (supported by a vote of 347 to 54 in the U.S. House of Representatives) is now determined to take "effective measures" aimed at encouraging Vorster to try internal dialogue and to stop repressing black leaders who must, inevitably, participate in any future national convention.

The first step in a policy designed to encourage a transformation in South Africa's political process has already been taken in the recent U.N. Security Council action, when the United States led its Western allies to a unanimous vote mandating an international arms embargo against South Africa under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. That same week, although the Western powers made it clear by their Security Council vetoes that they were not now prepared to adopt full economic, political and diplomatic sanctions against South Africa, Ambassador Andrew Young affirmed that the United States is considering other (unspecified) steps. He said, following the mandatory arms embargo vote: "We have just sent a very clear message to the government of South Africa . . . that continuation on the course on which it is embarked can only lead to further strains on ties between South Africa and other members of the international community." While threatening additional "sticks" Ambassador Young also held out the "carrot" that the Security Council must "make clear our desire for reconciliation provided South Africa is willing to begin progress toward the end of apartheid."

The next move in the United Nations should be to declare that South Africa's internal situation - not merely the supply of arms to South Africa - constitutes a threat to peace under Chapter VII. The rising tide of militant nationalism within South Africa, combined with the reactions of black African nations, the Soviet Union and others to the Vorster government's use of force to suppress all black attempts at political organization, have created a tinderbox similar to Rhodesia. Increasing violence by the Vorster government against black consciousness groups is bound to generate increased counter-violence. Transborder guerrilla movements are already occurring, and this threat to international peace will certainly grow unless the Vorster government changes its policies.

Such a finding would not require the United States or any other Western power to support the immediate applications of sanctions. There is no legal requirement that recognition of a "threat to peace" requires coterminous economic or military sanctions. The two issues are entirely separable. Indeed, it might well be more effective first to recognize that the situation is a threat to the peace, leaving to the future the imposition of appropriate sanctions.

Various other measures are available to tighten the screws on a graduated, sequential basis over, say, a two-year period. The shopping list of possible U.S. actions short of mandatory economic sanctions is enormous. The Administration's flexibility in employing these various tools is correspondingly wide.

The United States should try, wherever possible, to encourage multilateral action - through the United Nations, the Organization of African Unity and other appropriate world bodies. Multilateral initiatives are likely to be both more effective and politically more palatable to the Carter Administration, which does not want to get too far ahead of its Western allies on this or other sensitive foreign policy issues. On the other hand, we must frankly recognize that the United States has a smaller economic stake in South Africa than some of our allies (particularly the British) and is, correspondingly, more free to act. Although we must weigh the impact of unilateral steps on our allies, we must also be careful not to let our actions be dictated completely by their interests; otherwise, multilateral actions could become as weak as those which are acceptable to the most timid of our allies.

Listed below are 41 distinct steps which the United States, acting alone or in concert with its Western allies through the United Nations, might employ. This list does not contain such highly controversial items as cessation of trade, withdrawal of current investment, military support to the liberation forces or other "drastic" measures which were embodied in the recently vetoed U.N. Security Council resolutions. We realize that general mandatory sanctions would require far more active mobilization of U.S. political will as well as a possible naval blockade of South Africa to ensure implementation. Such steps are not likely to be adopted in the present U.S. political context, although their imposition should be clearly held out as a future possibility if all intermediate steps fail.

The following more moderate steps have been widely discussed in the United States and are, we understand, under active consideration by the Carter Administration.8 These options have been divided into five categories: diplomatic; military; support for refugees, liberation movements and African states; "mild" economic steps; and, finally "tough" economic steps. Space limitations do not allow a full argument of the pros and cons of each step, but possible actions are, generally, listed in ascending order from the easiest to implement through the most difficult to implement:

Diplomatic Options:

1. Issue a presidential condemnation of the bannings, detentions and other police actions in South Africa.

2. Give presidential attention to detained black dissidents in South Africa (as has been done in the case of Russian dissidents).

3. Reiterate that under no circumstances would the United States intervene militarily to assist the white South African government in suppressing a black revolution.

4. State that under no circumstances would the United States recognize the Transkei, BophuthaTswana, or any other so-called independent homeland.

5. Eliminate U.S. commercial, defense and agricultural attaches to South Africa and end all U.S.-South Africa cooperative agency agreements, such as those with the Treasury and the Defense Departments.

6. Institute an expanded educational and cultural exchange program with South African blacks, Coloureds, Asians and institutions and individuals working for meaningful change.

7. Increase the number of black American staff members in the U.S. Embassy in South Africa (including, possibly, the appointment, for the first time, of a black American ambassador).

8. Instruct the U.S. Ambassador or Deputy Chief of Mission to attend all political trials, inquests and other judicial proceedings in South Africa to show solidarity with the accused and the oppressed.

9. Arrange for the President to meet with liberation movement leaders from South Africa and Namibia when they visit this country. (He has met Chief Gatsha Buthelezi but he should also talk with such recognized liberation leaders as Oliver Tambo, President of the African National Congress; P. K. Leballo, Acting President, Pan-Africanist Congress of Azania; and Sam Nujoma, President of the South West Africa People's Organization of Namibia.)

10. Cease condemnation of the efforts of blacks in South Africa to achieve their freedom by forceful means and, in reaffirmation of the principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, acknowledge their right to use whatever means are necessary to achieve self-determination when moderate paths fail.

11. Encourage U.S. sports figures to participate in the growing sports boycott of South Africa.

12. Cease all intelligence cooperation with the South African government.

13. Downgrade our representation from ambassadorial to chargé level in South Africa and close our outlying consulates. (This obviously would only come after earlier U.S. Embassy changes fail to bring about change.)

14. Join the U.N. Council on Namibia, the Apartheid Committee and other bodies of the United Nations engaged in increasing international pressures on South Africa.

15. Put U.S. visa policy toward South Africa on a reciprocal quid pro quo basis (unlike the current situation where white South Africans are free to travel to the United States while U.S. Congressmen, journalists, academics, black American leaders and others are regularly denied visas to visit South Africa).

16. Finally, as argued previously, make it clear that South Africa's internal situation itself - not merely the supply of arms to South Africa - constitutes a threat to peace under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter. (The arms embargo is ambiguous on this point.)

Military Options:

17. Tighten further the definition of what constitutes "military" equipment.

18. Terminate the sale of weapons-grade uranium to South Africa and end all other nuclear collaboration.

19. Encourage our allies, particularly the Israelis, French and Italians, to abide by the U.N. mandatory arms embargo and to give the broadest possible interpretation to such "gray areas" as the provision of spare parts, components and repairs, light aircraft, (including civilian aircraft), the training of South African military personnel (including correspondence courses and participation at conferences), and cooperation in research and development of military know-how (including the testing of military equipment).

20. Make certain that NATO does not collaborate with South African military personnel in any fashion and make it explicit that the NATO umbrella does not extend to protect South Africa from internal or external military pressure.

Options with Respect to Refugees, Non-military Support of Liberation Movements and African States:

21. Offer political asylum in the United States to South African refugees and facilitate the issuance of travel documents and visas for such individuals.

22. Increase scholarship assistance for such refugees to enable them to attend both technical and higher education institutions in Africa and in the United States.

23. Contribute substantially to the U.N. Trust Fund for South Africa, a voluntary fund used for legal assistance, education and refugee relief.

24. Support multilateral (via the Organization of African Unity or the United Nations) or bilateral programs of humanitarian assistance to the liberation movements, including the provision of educational and medical supplies.

25. Increase support to the front-line African states affected by their proximity to South Africa. These states include Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland, and Zambia. These nations have been shouldering huge economic losses resulting from the liberation struggle in southern Africa and, unless there is a change of course in South Africa, are likely to suffer even more in the future. Botswana and Lesotho are particularly vulnerable to "counter-pressures" by the South African government, and the international community should be making contingency plans now for supplying needed resources to these countries (including oil) in the event of South African cutoffs.

Mild Economic Steps:

26. Discourage foreign business expansion in South Africa and vote for the Swedish resolution in the United Nations which calls for no new international investment. This should not cause excessive domestic political problems for the Administration since some 30 American companies in South Africa have already decided to freeze their current level of investment for the next five years, and another seven are actually planning to pull out. Among those that have adopted a policy of non-expansion of their subsidiaries in South Africa are Control Data, Ford and General Motors. Polaroid has just pulled out.

27. Advise U.S. businesses that if they decide to stay in South Africa, they do so at their own risk and that, in the event of difficulties with liberation movements, the U.S. government would not protect them.

28. Encourage U.S. firms in South Africa to establish fair employment practices including a new program to recognize and deal with black labor unions. This latter point is significantly absent from the so-called Sullivan Principles (named for Rev. Leon Sullivan, a black American board member of General Motors) which have now been adopted by 54 U.S. firms, but is included in the Common Market code adopted by the EEC.

29. Amend Executive Order No. 10925 so that, with respect to U.S. businesses in South Africa, fair employment practices in their South African enterprises would be made a condition for their eligibility for U.S. government contracts.

30. Eliminate Export-Import Bank facilities still available to South Africa. (Current policy permits insurance and guaranteed coverage in commercial sales. It normally limits the terms of such coverage to two to five years but the limit can be extended if necessary.)

31. End U.S. Department of Agriculture Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) credits to South Africa.

32. Warn U.S. traders with South Africa that they should be seeking alternative suppliers since the security of supply, given the unsettled internal conditions, cannot be guaranteed.

33. Discourage the travel of U.S. tourists to South Africa - now totaling more than 50,000 a year. American tourism constitutes an important source of foreign exchange for the South African government as well as a major propaganda asset.

Tough Economic Steps:

34. Prohibit U.S. banks and other financial institutions from providing financing to the South African government or its parastatal corporations.

35. Deny foreign tax credits to U.S. firms operating in Namibia. (This merely requires a reinterpretation by the Treasury Department of current law rather than new legislation.)

36. Embargo the transfer of new technology that might assist the South African government in enforcing repression.

37. Enforce Decree No. 1 of the U.N. Council on Namibia calling on all states to seize any exports from Namibia which reach their shores and to hold them in trust for the Namibian people.

38. Reduce or terminate landing rights for South African Airways in the United States.

39. Prohibit the importation of South African goods into the United States on the grounds that they violate U.S. laws banning importation of goods produced by "slave" labor.

40. Use U.S. influence in the International Monetary Fund and in other ways to depress the world gold price. This could severely reduce South African foreign exchange earnings, which now help cover its enormous trade deficit.

41. Use our influence with Iran (South Africa's principal oil supplier) and with U. S. oil companies (the principal refiners) to get them to abide by the international oil boycott of South Africa.


We are not suggesting that the use of any or even all of these "sticks" would topple the South African government. The United States acting alone cannot bring South Africa to its knees, nor is it likely to try. However, we can, by using selected pressures, increase the cost of Afrikaner intransigence, support the internal efforts of blacks and, perhaps, cause moderate whites in the society to take to the streets in civil disobedience against what will surely be increasingly harsh restrictions on their own freedoms. With the white editor of the East London Daily Dispatch now banned, how much longer can white press freedom survive? How long will able white lawyers be permitted to challenge the government through the judicial system and to embarrass the police responsible for internal security, as Sydney Kentridge did in the Biko inquest?

In undertaking a long-range, carefully moderated but rigorous policy to deal with South Africa, the United States must be prepared for tough countermeasures by the Vorster government. For example, South Africa, in retaliation against an oil embargo, would almost certainly cut off oil supplies to Botswana and Lesotho. In retaliation for a policy that discourages or prohibits new loans or investments, it might freeze repayments of old loans or the repatriation of profits and proceeds from sales of capital assets in South Africa.

On the other hand, the United States must also stand ready to "loosen the screws" and offer "carrots" when there are signs of real change on the part of South Africa's whites.

If we pursue a two-year path of graduated actions, we may frequently have to act alone: our British allies have a much greater economic stake in South Africa than the United States and are not likely to join us in exercising many (if any) of the options we are now considering. We should also be aware of South Africa's growing propaganda attempts to convince Americans that "important changes" are taking place when, in fact, they are only desegregating the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Finally, we must be careful of the oft-repeated argument that Western pressures on South Africa will hurt the country's blacks most. Yes, increased pressures will hurt blacks in South Africa, but they will affect the still-complacent white community most fundamentally. Blacks have little to lose - and they know it.


2 The Mondale interview was reported by Bernard Gwertzman, "Mondale Eases South Africa Stance," The New York Times, October 18, 1977, p. 3.

3 This term is derived from the circle of ox-drawn wagons inside which the migrating Boers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries took shelter at night.

4 The South African mining magnate, Harry Oppenheimer, enunciated a similar argument in an October 14, 1977 address to a standing-room-only audience at a Foreign Policy Association luncheon in New York: "Peaceful change is . . . not possible unless the white Afrikaners can be brought to believe their identity would not be threatened should they cease to hold their present monopoly of political power." But, he continued, "Any foreign opposition to the policy [of South Africa] is resented and denounced as an unwarranted interference by outsiders in South Africa's internal affairs." Stephen Rosenfeld made a similar point when he declared, in The Washington Post of October 21, 1977, that to air the concepts of one man, one vote or majority rule "is to subordinate the existing equipment for change in South Africa to American foreign policy goals in black Africa and perhaps to domestic political considerations as well."

5 Eventually destined by the South African government's plan to become 9 independent nations, the homelands (including the Transkei, which has been declared independent by the South African government) remain scattered fragments throughout the landscape of white South Africa.

6 The most famous of these was the pledge by South Africa's Prime Minister, John Vorster, on November 10, 1974, that there would be "startling" developments in South Africa's racial policies provided they were given six months to implement them.

7 "MP Answers Queries on Constitution Plan," by Patrick Laurence, The Rand Daily Mail, October 6, 1977.

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  • Clyde Ferguson, Professor of Law at the Harvard Law School, served as U.S. Ambassador to Uganda from 1970 to 1972. He was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, 1972-73, and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Economic and Social Council, 1973-75. William R. Cotter is currently President of the African-American Institute. He was Assistant Attorney General of Northern Nigeria, 1962-63, and White House Fellow, 1965-66. This article reflects his personal views; the African-American Institute is not a position-taking organization.
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